Tennessee lawmakers failed two years ago to pass a red flag gun law that could have stopped the shooter who attacked a grade school in Nashville.
A shooter opened fire at the Covenant School on Monday, killing at least three children and three adults and wounding several others. Police have identified the attacker as Audrey Hale, whom they said was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed emotional disorder.
Hale was known to be suicidal and had reached out to a former classmate, Averianna Patton, with a suicide note before the attack. Patton tried to contact the police and was told to call the non-emergency number. By the time she got through, it was too late.
Hale also owned seven guns, all purchased legally before the attack, Police Chief John Drake said. Three of those guns were used in the school shooting Monday.
“There’s not a law for” reporting cases like Hale, Drake told a press conference. Had the police known about Hale, “then we would have tried to get those weapons. But as it stands, we had absolutely no idea who this person was or if (Hale) even existed.”
But there could have been a law: a Democratic state senator introduced what’s known as a red flag law in January 2020. The bill would have let family members, household members, intimate partners, or law enforcement officers petition a court to ban an individual who “poses an imminent risk of harm to the person or others” from possessing firearms.
If a judge granted the petition and issued an emergency order, the individual would have 48 hours to hand over any guns they already owned, and they would be prohibited from purchasing more until the order is terminated. But first, they would have to prove in a hearing they are no longer a threat to themselves or others.
Republicans held a supermajority in both the state House and Senate at the time (as they do now), and the bill never made it out of committees. In the years since, they have focused more on trying to curb LGBTQ rights than gun safety.
Following Monday’s tragedy, Tennessee Republicans have decided that there’s simply nothing they could have done differently to prevent the attack.
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